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Tomorrow afternoon, we’re leaving on a jet plane, headed to Chicago for a long weekend.

We plan to stay with friends, spend some time with family who are meeting us there, hangout with 45,000 other people, and run a marathon on Sunday.

On Sunday, I’m running a marathon!

Wow. I remember training for my first half marathon last year. My boyfriend Matt and I would talk about how maybe if we were really out of our minds, one day we would try and run Boston. We laughed about it and joked about how crazy we’d be, to ever even want to run more than 13.1 miles, just for the hell of it. We thought the half marathon training was quite the feat (and it was!), but I’m not sure either of us seriously thought that a marathon was in the cards.

And then my first half came and went, and I really really loved it. I fell in love with the idea of training for a specific goal, coming together with a huge mass of people who each have their own individual journey that brings them to race day, but that share one thing in common: the will to run.

There was another half marathon, and various other 10K’s and Thanksgiving Feaster Five races, and then come the middle of last winter, came the notion that I wanted to run Chicago on 10-10-10, as my first full marathon.

And since then? It’s been a whirlwind of a journey. Many runs (many of my favorite runs) towards the beginning were shared with my partner in crime, my love, my Matt. As his specific training took some different twists and turns than mine, over the last several months I have been running more on my own.

Running on my own has had its own ups and downs, as you might expect. When it’s only you yourself and… you, out on the road for 10+ miles, you end up having to look inward for your own inner voice to push you onward. There’s no one there to cheer you on, to push you to keep on going when you’d rather be at home watching the Patriots opener with friends and drinking a beer. There’s no one there to tell you that it will be okay, that you can do this. It’s just you, and the road, and your crazy mind running wild.

But there were so many good things about going it solo too. So much time to think has been both a blessing and a curse, for my good friends and family can attest to, by nature I’m an overanalyzer. I mean, I’m a woman, but I take this thinking and overthinking and bring it to a whole different level that believe me, you don’t even want to know. So I mean, I guess being alone for two, three, almost four hours at a time, just me and the road, offers a girl a lot of time to just… obsess.

I’m kidding, mostly. What the open road and my going it alone really offered me was a chance to clear my mind, a chance to declutter a lot of thoughts going on up there, stuff loaded up from a hectic as hell schedule I’ve held these days, with working full time, nursing school full time, and marathon training full time. Running has given me a chance to decompress, to regroup. To center myself. To find balance in my life. And while I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss having some company on some of these days, it also forced me to look within, to really dig deep and depend and rely solely on myself. It was me that had to encourage me. It was I, who had to tell myself to man up, to stop whining, to just do it.

And I did. I did do it. I’ve been running, training for one thing or another since March, when I got back into it after a bit of a winter break. And now, in three days, I’ll be running a marathon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to tell you that I didn’t get here alone. There are some significant people in my life, without whom, I would absolutely, unuquivocally not be here today, ready to run a marathon on Sunday.

Matt, my wonderfully supportive ManFriend, has been such an amazing support to me. He’s encouraged me all along, he’s been on endless trips to running stores when I would decide that right this minute, I needed new socks or a new water belt. He’s been patient with me when I’ve been grouchy and frustrated after a lot of running and a lot of life, and not too much sleep. He’s been my chef, my water boy, my cheer leader, my course mapper outer, my pillow (literally, on more than one occasion), my fan club, and always, at the end of every single day, the person that I want to come home to. I am lucky.

My mom, who has not only been my personal masseuse, and Reiki Master, but also my very best go-to for inspiration, and positivity, and love, and support. It’s not without extreme appreciation and gratitude, and blessing, that I reflect upon our relationship. For no other closeness in my life compares. Not only my mom, but my very best friend, I wouldn’t be where I am in this journey without her.

My stepdad, my dad and stepmom, all who have been supportive of this journey from the start. My stepdad once picking me up at mile 16 of a long run because that last mile just seemed too much to handle at the time (I gave up). My dad, who has helped me map out 19 mile routes in Reno, Nevada, so that I could get my long run in on our trip out to see him this summer. And my stepmom, who biked alongside me during said 19 mile run, to keep me company that day.

Of course, there are my friends. I’m a lucky and blessed girl in this department, as those nearest and dearest to me have been amazing cheerleaders throughout these last several months. Nilsa, my friend made through blogging, has been not only the girl who inspired me to sign up for Chicago this year, but the lovely gal who with her husband, will be hosting us this weekend when we’re in town for the race. Not only that, Nilsa has gone out of her way, on the regular, in helping me to prepare for this race. She’s calmed my nerves more often than not, she’s encouraged me and cheered me on from afar, and has been much more of a support than I think she will ever even realize or give herself credit for. I’m beyond excited to spend some time with this girl who holds such a special place in my heart, this coming weekend.

To all of my other friends, thank you so much for the phone calls, the emails, the running tips, the beers after races, you name it. It all means so much to me.

And Kevin, and Thor, and John, and Egan (my dude running friends!), I have not forgotten about you. Kevin, I will always remember that my longest run in life thus far, was first run with you (our 18 miler), and then again, on our 20 miler a couple weeks ago. Now those are two long runs that I’m glad I didn’t have to go alone. I love that we were able to reconnect through our training for this marathon, and I can’t wait to see you on the course on Sunday (if we can find each other!). Thor and John and Egan- you guys have been like my big brothers through it all. I can’t thank any of you enough for your running words of wisdom, and frankly, your words of wisdom on life in general. I have the utmost respect for you all, having run your own fair share of races for sure, but also respect and admire you for the way that you live your lives with passion, and drive, and love for those around you. Thank you all so, so much.

I could go on, and on, and on with thanks here. On Sunday, I will mindfully take the time to think of each and every one of you who has been there for me in ways big and small throughout this journey. I mean it when I say that I would not be here today, ready to run 26.2 in just three days if it weren’t were those of you in my life who have supported me along the way.

Before I go on (and get any more emotional, as I now sit here with tears in my eyes, trying to think of a way to wrap this up), I will end where I began. On Sunday, I’m running a marathon. My very first freaking marathon ever!, and I couldn’t be more excited. Thank you to everyone who has been by my side throughout this endeavor, who has cheered me on in ways that you can’t even begin to imagine. Your good thoughts, good vibes, emails, facebook messages and comments, hugs, cards, meals, massages!, getaways, donations!, words of wisdom…. they have all moved me so deeply. Thank you, thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. I feel rested, excited to EAT CARBS!, and I feel ready to tackle this race this weekend, and enjoy the experience as I reflect on how far I’ve come to get here.

Run on.

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They say at this stage of the game, to trust your training. Easy for them (who are “they” anyway?) to say. I’ve never trained for and competed in a full marathon, so I guess I have to trust and believe in THEM.

My other running buddies, who have done marathons before, tell me that I’m ready, that I’m prepared. That if I can do the 20 miler, I can do 26.2. They tell me that those last 6.2 are going to hurt, but they say I can do it.

The scary, freaky, holy hell what am I doing God’s honest truth here is, I believe them.

I do think I can do it. I think I am ready. I think I’ll finish.

But I’m scared as shit right now. (Am I supposed to admit that?)

I’m nervous! And I know, I know, it’s normal at this point. If I was going into it all confident and without a care in the world, that would make me nervous. I’m questioning it all. Have I trained enough? What if I crap out after mile 13? What if I go out too fast? What if I trip and fall in my high heels this week and sprain my ankle? Will I wear the right outfit? Will I be too hot? Too cold? What if I fall apart, where will I get the strength to finish this thing?

I know it’s normal. And that’s the scary part too! Because I have a feeling this is all par for the course here, and these nerves, this pre-race anxiety isn’t going to just go away. And I know damn well that a good dose of it is good for me! I just fear that I’m not ready. So many people know that I’m doing this. I don’t want to fail.

But, how about that 20 miler yesterday? Kevin and I totally crushed that run, and no, not without some complaining throughout. But we finished! And we didn’t drop! And we finished in pretty good time. And it was hotter than expected and we were sore and we would have rather been watching football with our friends or out sitting by the Charles which we were running by having a picnic instead of hoofing it by the picnic-ers, but… we did it.

We did our 20 miler, and “they” say, we’re ready.

Now I just need to believe THEM.

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Last year, when I trained for my half marathon, I decided to run for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute team.  With the generous donations of friends and family, I ended up raising over $2,000 towards cancer research!  This was such an accomplishment for me.  Not only to train for, and race in my first half marathon, but also to raise so much money for a cause that hits so close to home for me.  Both of my maternal grandparents fought a heroic battle with cancer in 2008.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of them and the wonderful people they were.  They are my true guardian angels and I miss them like crazy, every day.

This time around, when I decided back in February that I was going to run the Chicago Marathon, I decided to run not affiliated with a charity.  Since this race was coming pretty quick off the heels of my half marathon that I had just raised so much for, I didn’t want to ask people to donate again.  I didn’t want anyone feeling obligated or like they had to donate, thinking “geeze, all this chick does is ask us for money!”

So for five months, through July or so, I had been going along in my training, supporting friends who were running for charities (check out Kevin’s blog too!), and enjoying the process.

Then in mid-July, I came across Girls on the Run.  Girls on the Run is a program developed for young girls, between the ages of eight and thirteen.  It combines training for a 3.1/5K race, with self esteem enhancing activities and workouts.

“The goals of the programs are to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development.”

The goal of this program is to empower girls at an early age, in order to prevent at risk activities in the future, like drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, and the early onset of sexual activity.

The more I read about this program, the more I fell in love with the concept!  I had to get involved!  So I searched around, and found that guess what?!  There’s a Boston chapter of Girls on the Run!  Check it out!

Girls on The Run also has this really great program that I have gotten involved with, called Solemates.  Solemates is the adult portion of the Girls on the Run program.  As a member of the Solemates team, I am raising money to help support my local Boston council.  By doing this, I’m helping raise money to help young girls compete in train in their own 5K in Boston!

I know that my intention was to run the Chicago Marathon not affiliated with a charity, but hen I found Girls on the Run, something about it really caught my attention.  I used to volunteer with Big Brother/Big Sister a few years back, and I really enjoyed it.  I think there’s something really wonderful about working with young girls, teaching them the importance of a strong self esteem and confidence and self worth early.  And to combine all of that with running?  Hell yeah!

Thanks for listening to my little shtick here.  But don’t just take my word for it!  Check out the links for yourself, and see what a great program Girls on the Run and Solemates are!

If you’re interested, you can check out my fundraising page, and donate here!  THANKS!

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Why do weekends away have to go by so fast?!

And look at my lovely personal massage therapist, by the way!

Not only am I completely spoiled that my mom is a massage therapist as I’m in the throws of training for a marathon; that’s not even the best part.

The BEST part of my relationship with my mom, is that she’s my best friend.  I consider myself really blessed to have the relationship that we do.  We’ve always been close, in that mother-daughter kind of way, but we’re also fortunate enough to have a really sweet friendship as well.  My mom is one of those people who oozes good energy and positivity when she walks into a room.  She’s beautiful and kind.  She’s thoughtful and inspirational.  She can ALWAYS make you laugh, and she’s always encouraging me, and others, to pursue their dreams and passions in life.  I look up to her in so many ways, and consider myself uniquely blessed to have such an amazing woman as a mom.  My life is infinitely better because of all of the good she adds to it.

So.  As you can imagine, a weekend away with my mom is nothing short of fabulous!

(don't ask)

Beers, and walking, coffee shops, seafood, laughter…. before we knew it, it was Sunday morning and time to head back so that I could get in my 17 mile run.  The weekend flew by!  (I wish my run did.)

The run was actually really good.  Another personal distance milestone for me, even though the run only ended up being 16 miles instead of 17.  16 miles of rolling hills, and come the tail end of it, my legs were screaming.  I was pretty beat, and also, out of water.  And also, kind of felt like I was going to hurl.

But all things considered, I’m pretty happy with how the run went.  Since I wasn’t running right near home, I wasn’t familiar with the area so much, and didn’t expect the hills here and there.  Not that I can’t do hills- Heartbreak Hill is part of my training runs some days, but it wasn’t really in the agenda this week, so I wasn’t really prepared.  Mentally, mostly. Physically, I was okay…but I was sure ready to get home for the much anticipated massage I had on my mind the whole entire run!

The massage was so, SO good.  It was exactly what I needed after the longest run I’ve done ever.  And I can say that even more so now, two days later, when usually my legs would be feeling the soreness of that many miles, and wouldn’t you know?  I have not one ache or pain to speak of!

If you can get your own, personal massage therapist, who will treat you to a wonderful weekend away in NH, then give you the best massage ever, and send you home with a bottle of wine and fresh ears of corn for you and your ManFriend to enjoy and also, homemade blueberry jam?  I would highly recommend it.  It’s pretty damn good.  I’m just sayin’.

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This Saturday is the Journey of Hope walk for MS!
 
The team that we’re walking for, St. Elizabeth’s (where Matt receives his treatment), is in the lead having raised a whopping $24,103!!!
 
And guess who is the top fundraiser for our team?!
 
None other than my one and only partner in crime/running partner/soon to be cohabitating boyfriend!/lucky guy who gets to put up with my Crazy on the regular/amazing ManFriend!
 
Yup.  Matt has raised $1,840!!  This is after increasing his goal again and again because kind, generous, thoughtful family and friends kept donating more and more!  Now his goal is at $2,500 and wouldn’t it be swell if he could reach that?!!
 
I’m so, so proud of my Matt.  Running with him really helps to put things in prospective, you know?  Here I think I’m having a bad day if I have a sore knee or something, or am struggling with an eight mile run, yet he powers through almost every single run without complaint, and he’s dedicated and strong, and very often he’s the one encouraging me to push myself just a little bit more.
 
He’d say his MS is “no big deal.”  And if you knew him, you’d agree.  Other than us playing nurse and patient every Sunday night (get your minds out of the gutter), where I freak out for about ten minutes before he convinces me that giving him his shot is good “practice” for me as I’m, yanno, going to be a nurse and all one day not so far away (finally) (!!), then you’d seriously never know that he has this MS thing going on.  He runs several times throughout the week, he busts out a 10-14 mile run on weekends, all that on top of playing hockey and lacrosse on weeknights, working full time, taking good care of me, and being totally amazing in the process.
 
Every day, I feel more admiration for Matt with his positive attitude, his determination, and the humility with which he approaches this whole thing.  I can only imagine how I’d face things if I were in his running shoes, and it wouldn’t be too pretty.  I think I’d be much more woe is me but then again, you never really know how you’ll face this kind of thing until you’re actually thrown right into it.  The bottom line?  I feel so damn lucky to be with Matt, each and every day.  For his outlook and drive are qualities that I truly admire, and I love him that much more for this whole thing.
 
Are you doing any charity walks or runs this year?  Have you done them in the past?  What’s your best fundraising tip?

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Yesterday was Marathon Monday!

I didn’t get a chance to get down there to the course this year, which is kind of dissapointing.  I did catch a chunk of it on tv, a totally different experience that clearly does no justice to being there in person, but it had to do for yesterday.
 
The thing that sucks about watching the marathon on tv rather than actually being there?  Well, there’s several things that are way better about being there in person, but one that my girlfriends and I kept noticing yesterday was those damn commentators.
 
You guys, they’re really, really annoying.
I mean REALLY annoying.  And not for nothing, but hello Captain Obvious!  No kidding the dude who’s leading the pack looks like he might be struggling a bit.  Oh, and really, these people train for months?!  You don’t say!  I had no idea!  I had no clue that one needs to actually TRAIN for a 26.2 mile race and how could these people ever be struggling coming off of Heartbreak Hill?!
Thank you so very much Mr. and Miss Newscaster for enlightening me.  Without your help yesterday, I don’t know how I would have ever understood what was going on!
 
Seriously, we muted their asses after a while because it was just too much.
 
But!  Despite their penchant for stating the obvious, I was paying attention at one point, and good thing!, because look who I spied right behind these two chatterboxes!

"Blondie, that Thor dude is quite the machine! He's wearing green. He just finished 26.2 miles!"

Thor!  You truly are an inspiration!  You and your three hour finish have me in awe!
 
And congrats to all my other friends who completed yesterday’s race! 
 
I’m all that much more scared excited for Chicago now!

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